Artemisia's Absinthe


San Diego, United States

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Artist's Description

“Artemisia’s Absinthe” and her story have just been published in “Steampunk II: Reloaded”, an anthology of short stories and other wonderful things edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer. Check it out here:

From the time Anyushka Rutkauska was a young girl, chemistry was all she could think of. While it was difficult for girls to pursue such professions in Poland in those days, it was not impossible, and Anyushka was finishing up her PhD at the University of Warsaw when rumors of the war began bubbling out of lecture halls and cafés like a laboratory concoction gone awry. Perhaps she was prescient, or maybe just restless, but she packed her bags and took off for Paris the day she passed her oral exams. At the time she certainly regretted the decision, as her freshly minted diploma did not translate into French easily, or truth be told, at all. That is how Anyushka found herself tending bar at the Taverne Coeur Noir in the 6th Arrondissement. Despite what she told the proprietor, she had no experience with tending bar, but for a chemist, how difficult could it be? Certainly easier than pronouncing “Anyushka” in French – patrons simply dubbed her “Artemisia” after the potent wormwood-tinged cocktails that were the ruin of many a Coeur Noir customer. Indeed, it became a badly kept secret that Artemisia’s cocktails were the best in the City of Lights, and artists, courtesans, poets, academics and diplomats began to pour into the cramped little bar to sample her potent concoctions. The cocktails proved to be great equalizers, rendering the rogue as well as the statesman a blissful yet blithering mess by the end of the evening. Inevitably, a bombast of German soldiers blundered in, rude and imperious, and with a hard, cold glitter in her heavily kohl-rimmed eyes, Anyushka cooked up something very, very special for the lot of them. No sudden deaths, no, nothing as obvious as that. Permanent impotence, total hair loss, an unshakeable sense of dread, irretrievable madness, the firm conviction that one was really a woman – these were the subtle gifts Anyushka’s cocktails imparted to the German occupiers. Where no finger could be pointed, no credit could be given, either. Nonetheless, Artemisia was awarded a Medal of Honor at the end of the war, enjoying heroine status, and best of all, an appointment to the chemistry department at the Sorbonne.

This original artwork and story are copyright Ramona Szczerba 2009. Copyright to this material is in no way transferrable with the sale of this item. The buyer is not entitled to any reproduction rights – neither image nor story can be reproduced without my express written permission. Thanks!

Artwork Comments

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